From the Bench: Jamison Talks 87th Birthday, the Late Leon McCoy, Baseball, Favorite Players and More

By Jeff Toquinto on June 25, 2017 from Sports Blog via

The post looked innocuous enough. It simply read “12 touchdowns with extra points and a field goal you figure.”
Of course, when the poster is legendary former Bridgeport High School football Coach Wayne Jamison you take pause. For all I knew, this was a riddle that would lead me to the Ark of the Covenant.
Turns out, it wasn’t all that complex after – even for someone like myself and who is extremely math challenged. The 12 touchdowns and extra points totaled 84 and a field goal made 87. On that post on June 12, Jamison put out in terms that probably would have made his friend and former math teacher JoAnne Brown (who by the way Jamison said made the best apple dumpling ever) happy that he was celebrating his 87th birthday.
Of course, the comment was figured out much quicker by many others. And a few of the comments to his comment were excellent, including Dave Stingo who wanted to know “how many of those were passing touchdowns?”
I can assure you none of them were. If Jamison had another 87 birthdays, you can bet all you have no equation will include passing scores.
Knowing it was a special day, I gave Coach a week before pestering him about his birthday to not only wish him well, but to see what was going on. What I found was what I always find during a conversation with Jamison, and that is that he’s still sharp as a tack and loves to talk.
The bulk of the conversation centered on sports, and in short order it came to a situation that happened recently that was very near and close to Jamison’s heart. He was saddened to learn of the recent passing of his coaching friend Leon McCoy.
McCoy died in late May at the age of 88. He was a two-time state championship coach and battled Jamison and the Indians only twice. One game was a 10-8 Class AA semifinal win by the Tribe in 1986 on their way to the ‘AA’ championship. The other, well that was perhaps the greatest playoff game of all time.
Bridgeport managed to beat the Generals 29-28 in four overtimes in the Class AA title game at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown. The game ended in the most fascinating way imaginable as Jamison – perhaps the most conservative coach of all time in any sport – called a fake point-after attempt for a two-point conversion pass to win it.
I’m not a BHS alum, but I certainly remember the game. There was hoopla and excitement by everyone wearing red and white one could only imagine. There was one notable exception – Wayne Jamison.
“I actually felt bad we won the game as I was walking across the field. I remember thinking ‘holy mackerel we just won a title and it shouldn’t be this way.’ I know coaches say it sometimes, but that game should have ended with no one losing,” Jamison said crystal clear and with emphasis. “There is no doubt in mind then or today that they were every bit as good as us. That’s the only win I didn’t feel real good about. To me it was bittersweet.”
Jamison said to this day it bothers him. Part of the reason, he said, is because of the amount of respect he had for McCoy.
“What a guy. The only thing I would tell people is don’t shake hands with him because he was a weight lifter and, boy oh boy, did he have a grip. He’s the one that got weight training going in West Virginia,” said Jamison. “He was something else and more than just a coach. I had a ton of respect for him because he was a great coach and a religious man. I remember he let me talk to his kids after that game so I could tell them what I thought. That was as tough a talk as I’ve had with any of my teams and he let me do that. I was sad to learn about him, but he touched a whole lot of lives.”
Jamison, of course, touched a lot of players’ lives as well. And not just in football.
While many in Bridgeport know it, many don’t. Many more beyond Bridgeport as well have no idea Jamison also coached basketball and baseball during his decades-long time at Bridgeport High School.
“I started coaching in 1958 and they stuck me with baseball and we didn’t even have uniforms and they weren’t really paying much either. I was coaching baseball and an assistant with football and basketball and I got a whole $100 for all three,” said Jamison. “The things I remember were that we were lucky to play 10 games a year and I think the most I ever had come out was 12 kids.”
Jamison may not have been getting a king’s ransom, but he knew he liked to coach. He coached American Legion baseball in the offseason and said if he had deep pitching he would have had the best team in the state. He said he had guys like Braden Swaney, Timmy Brinkley, Pete Secret and Felix Veltri on the squad. He also had what he called “a fun bunch” with legendary Clarksburg athletes Bobby Secret and Gene Donaldson.
“What a group we had. We had a good team and a good time,” said Jamison.
Jamison said despite his stoic manner on the sidelines, he thoroughly enjoyed the kids that he coached. He said and it was almost exclusive on that front.
“I honestly think, and I had a whole lot of young men that I got to coach, that there were probably one or two I could never get through to that were disappointments and by that I mean issues with drugs or things of that nature that I would find out about usually later,” said Jamison. “Those are the ones you look back at and wish you could have gotten through to.
“Most of the kids would listen and 98 percent or more I greatly enjoyed, which isn’t too bad of a percentage,” Jamison continued. “It’s easy to say you enjoyed the all-state kids; your starters, the most. While I enjoyed those kids, the ones I look back on most fondly are the sophomores that came in with two left feet and you knew they may never get to play, but they stuck it out for three years just to be a part of what you were doing. The ones who practiced for three years to play two minutes a game and never gave you a problem, those are the ones I really look back on and smile about.”
He has plenty of good memories of his time at BHS while coaching. And a few bad ones too.
Jamison still frets about the 7-6 loss at home to Grafton in 1984. He insists that his team scored more than once on a goal line stand by the Bearcats. He also said he thinks about a 14-7 home loss in the playoffs to Musselman in 1989.
“I don’t think we should have lost because they had a play, a reverse, they scored on and I knew it was coming. I tried to get the defense that I wanted for it and I either didn’t get it in or the signal got crossed up going in,” Jamison said. “As clear as your voice is on this phone is as clear as I knew what was coming and I watched and we couldn’t do nothing about it. Yeah, I still think about that and watch it over and over in my mind on occasion.”
Today, Jamison is watching college baseball. He enjoys the College World Series, is frustrated watching the Pirates and will dabble with college football and even the pros where he said he’ll ponder “why are they throwing so much” frequently.
Here’s something else he does while watching the game. After getting starting lineups, he turns off the volume. Wayne Jamison watches games in silence.
“I don’t need to hear what anyone has to say. I just want to watch the game. Brad Ford watched a game with me with no volume and I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy,” Jamison laughed.
Today, Jamison spends most of his time at home as he tends to his health and he and his wife Fay’s feline family. He gets visits from former players and students, as well as phone calls and occasional correspondence.
“I enjoy the visits most of the time. Bobby Marra, Steve Stout, Charlie Fest are the ones that keep in touch with me the most,” said Jamison. “I’m where I’ve always been for anyone wanting to chat.”
And it doesn’t even have to be about sports. Look at the start of this blog. Coach knows and can talk math too.
Happy Birthday Coach. Here’s hoping there are many more.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Coach Jamison in a photo from earlier this month with his family, while he's shown talking to player Dave Taylor in this 1970s photo. The third picture shows Jamison with equally legendary educator Alice Rowe at a recent golf tournament, while he's shown pondering his next move on the sidelines in another 1970s picture. Bottom photo shows Jamison with the real boss, his wife Fay, in a picture taken in late 2016.

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